March to the Ballot Box-TODAY

Dear Group,

I used to think attending a political rally or getting out and marching was unnecessary and somehow beneath my dignity as a logical, thoughtful citizen. I was dead wrong. Over the last two years of self-imposed study to produce this email I’ve learned how little I knew about the people for whom I was asked to vote. Quick! Recite the names of your two State Representatives and your State Senator from your Washington State Legislative District. Can you summon up in your mind’s eye what they look like? Perhaps you can. Two years ago I could not. Knocking on doors I’ve lately met a lot of nice people who remain as un-informed as I was two years ago, nice people uninformed in spite of, or perhaps because of, the continual barrage of national news and local campaign ads, nice people who have tuned out in despair, people who say they haven’t had time to study the ballot. 

Elections are won in this country by convincing people their vote might actually make a difference, enough difference to be worth the effort of voting. The most effective way to achieve that is to meet people face to face, engage, listen, explain your values, resonate, encourage, and cajole.

So why rally? Why march? Why try to grab media attention? We are social creatures. It is a rare day I can motivate myself, on my own, to go out and canvass. But I go, week after week, and now day after day because I am inspired by the group of which I am a part, inspired by the people who marched with me at the original Women’s March, the people went to the trouble of bringing the Trump balloon to protest Mike Pence, the women who marched dressed up in the costume of the Handmaid’s Tale. I believe we are awakening enough people in eastern Washington that real change is possible even against the manifest advantages of incumbency. 

With all that in mind come join Lisa Brown at the Tribal Gathering Place at 5PM this evening. Dress warmly. Meet nice people. Contribute to the buzz around voting for Lisa. 

You have your ballot. Do your homework. For my part, I have met face-to-face at least once with most Democratic candidates for state and federal office named on a ballot in eastern Washington and all of Democratic candidates for office in Spokane County. They are all good  people with solid skills for the job for which they are applying. I would be very happy to have any one of them represent me. I found the very useful in providing reasoned viewpoints for some of the more arcane ballot questions and judgeships.

I close today with a strong recommendation to read Robert Herold’s piece in the Inlander from October 18 on the choice between Lisa Brown and Cathy McMorris Rodgers. In person, I listened carefully to three debates. I have interacted extensively with both Lisa Brown and McMorris Rodgers. For anyone who has been paying attention Robert Herold says it all. I cannot improve on his perspective. Please click and read.

See you at the Tribal Gathering Place (353 N Post St # 367) at 5PM. Bring your filled out ballot to ceremoniously turn in at the Spokane Library. Do your homework. (If you cannot yet decide how to vote on everything you feel compelled choose, come anyway. Swell the ranks. Feel the vibe. It’ll be fun!)

Keep to the high ground,


The Weekend, Debate Comment, Erratum

Dear Group,

There is lots to do this weekend. I received my ballot in the mail today, Thursday. Nearly all registered voters in Washington State will have theirs by Saturday. “Ballot drop” puts all the campaigns in Get Out the Vote (GOTV) mode. 

Much of GOTV mode is spend nudging folks who have already been contacted to actually fill out and turn in their ballots. There are several fun facts worth memorizing and talking up with everyone who’ll listen:

1) You don’t need to make a choice in every race to submit a ballot (It’s probably a good idea to have the right candidates in mind in the area you are canvassing so you can offer suggestions if it comes up.)

2) You don’t need a stamp. Just put it in your mailbox before the post-person comes by and off it will go. (Or take it to the dropbox at a library.)

3) Once you vote the campaigns can learn you voted and will quit knocking on your door within a couple days! 🙂

4) You can check to see if your ballot has been received by going to

This is where the rubber meets the road after so many months of preparation. It seems hard to imagine there are still people out their who haven’t studied up yet, folks who aren’t sure if they’re going to bother to vote, but there are. I keep meeting them on their doorsteps. Meet them, smile, nudge them. Canvass. Don’t wake up on November 7 and wish you had done more. On Saturday (check out the detail in the box above) we’re headed to Deer Park. Join us. Check out this and many, many other opportunities at: under the “Events” pull-down or, more directly, right here

Or, sign up with your favorite State Democratic candidate. There are competitive races in all Districts. GOTV canvassing for any Democratic candidate is likely to help all of them. It is all good.

The Debate Comments:

I’ve attended two Lisa Brown/CMR debates in two days, one at the Fox and one with Rotary 21 at the Spokane Club. They both get gold stars for participation, for managing to answer questions on the fly without a major stumble. From my very partisan viewpoint, Lisa looked relaxed, poised, and in command. At both debates McMorris Rodgers’ lead-line was how fast the economy growing. Excitement! Optimism! The economy today certainly is fired up. It is fired up as though one started with a nice warm fire in the fireplace with a few sticks to add on and then, instead of the sticks, you threw a gallon of gasoline on it. To me the economy feels like early 2008. Wages are a little up, but so is inflation, the stock market is wobbling around, and Trump’s trade wars have everyone on edge who isn’t part of the Fox News faithful. When the crisis comes, as it always does, Trump, McMorris Rodgers and the Trickle-downers won’t have the tools soften it. They have already blown a massive hole in the budget. They have no wiggle room. McMorris Rodgers seems to think the economy can and will roar on forever and produce jobs, jobs, jobs. Somehow that will save us from a fate from which the economy has never before been spared–the next downturn of the business cycle…or worse. 

Twice in two days in two debates McMorris Rodgers boasted of her bipartisan legislative successes. Here is a transcript of my audio recording of her words at the Spokane Club on October 18:

I’m proud of a record of leadership and results…all the legislation I’ve introduced that has passed the House and Congress has enjoyed bipartisan support. I’ve had 10 bills that have passed, five signed into law, everything from forestry to agriculture to small businesses to healthcare to helping kids with disabilities. I am proud to be someone who works across the aisle.

That statement is damnably difficult to fact check, since she doesn’t specify the time period. Is it all fourteen years? If so, then, really, just ten bills? On the other hand, if she means the current two-year Congress, the 115th. then things don’t add up. See During the 115th Congress, it sure looks to me as though McMorris Rodgers did not introduce (personally “sponsor”) a single bill. She co-sponsored three that became law, none of them in the least bit controversial. Click and see for yourself. Click around and see if you can discover anything I couldn’t. I don’t see the evidence of leadership in bill passage that she claims. I see a cheerleader for the Republican national agenda.


After Wednesday”s (October 17) email entitled Citizens United Comes to Spokane County several readers replied and noted I had written Avista Utilities where I should have written Avsita Corp. Technically, Avista Utilities is a highly regulated utility that is a subsection of Avista Corp. As a utility it operates under different accounting rules than the Avista Corp. Avista Utilities cannot legally contribute to a PAC (Political Action Committee) or a candidate. Avista Corp. maintains accounting that keeps Avista Utility earnings separate from its political speech activities, that is, Avista Utilities cannot claim political speech as a cost of its doing business as a utility when asking for a rate hike. Still, some part of Avista Utilities’ net earnings from our utility payments accrues to Avista Corp, and thanks to the Citizens United ruling Avista Corp can spend its money on political speech. For me, Avista Corp’s $200,000 independent ad buy in favor of two candidates whose campaigns have generated less than $100,000 each is a disgusting example of partisanship in favor of the party that engineered Citizens United. It is a local reminder of the current Republican Party’s thirst for power.

Come on out this weekend and canvass. Your country needs you.

Keep to the high ground,


CMR and the Deficit Scam

Dear Group,

McMorris Rodgers is a creature of Republican/Libertarian ideology. Mr. Trump is her “positive disruptor.” She is “excited” about the “momentum” of the slim Republican majority in passing a Tax Cut (80% of which benefits the rich), repealing pieces of the Affordable Care Act, and “opening up” the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. (See In Her Own Words) The only vote she cast in this 115th Congress (2017-2018) that ran counter to the Republican majority in the House was against gutting the Americans with Disabilities Act. That is the exception that proves the rule. (Read: The ADA, What HR620 says of our Rep and the Republican Party

After passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, McMorris Rodgers stated time and time again it would “put money in your pocket,” even though the vast majority of the money taken from the treasury by the Act went to corporations and the already wealthy. The Congressional Budget Office and most economists said the Act would balloon the federal deficit by more than a trillion dollars over ten years. 

Last Monday, the U.S. Treasury announced the federal deficit swelled 17% in the federal fiscal year (October 1, 2017, to September 30, 2018), driven by a sharp decline in corporate tax revenues (from the same corporations that are busy using their windfall to buy back their own stock).I suppose it should come as no surprise that Republicans quickly got out to inform the nation that the problem was “entitlements,” certainly not the tax cut. Oh, no. Couldn’t be that.

Listen to Mitch McConnell, quoted from The Hill:

“It’s disappointing but it’s not a Republican problem,” McConnell told Bloomberg News. “It’s a bipartisan problem.”

McConnell said the true culprit behind the rising deficits was mandatory spending.

“The three big entitlement programs that are very popular, Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid, that’s 70 percent of what we spend every year,” he said in a separate interview with Bloomberg TV. “There’s been a bipartisan reluctance to tackle entitlement changes because of the popularity of those programs.”

It is as if the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act never happened. A deficit is an imbalance of income and expenditures, and the Republican Party just passed a massive income giveaway 80 percent of which went to the rich. Did McConnell or McMorris Rodgers ever balance a household budget? Where is their acknowledgement of the income side? On Sunday, October 14, in the Spokesman McMorris Rodgers wrote how we must curtail spending. She is part of Republican Congressional leadership with McConnell. How long after the election (if she stays in office and in the majority) will it be before they both use the ballooning deficit as an excuse to attack Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

The Republican Party lost all claim to fairness and fiscal responsibility with their Party-line passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Now they want us to forget what they did and nod approvingly as they use the deficit they’ve inflated as justification for dismantling the social programs that support the dignity of struggling Americans.

Apparently, trashing the Affordable Care Act wasn’t enough. If the voters leave McMorris Rodgers and her people in power after the midterms, watch what happens. It won’t be pretty.

Keep to the high ground,


Citizens United Comes to Spokane County

Dear Group,

As a customer and small stockholder of the Avista Corporation, I am really peeved reading the document I posted above. Avista has an effective monopoly on the sale of electricity and natural gas in much of eastern Washington, North Idaho, and beyond. They are also a private company with a big profit motive. So what is Avista doing pouring an overwhelming amount of money into the re-election campaigns of two sitting Spokane County Commissioners?

Transparency is only as useful as one’s willingness to look. Thanks primarily to the efforts of Democrats we, as citizens, have a transparent window through which to look at the money spent on the election of candidates for office in Washington State. It is called the Public Disclosure Commission. You can visit here:

Check out the above document from the PDC website. Avista paid $99,517 each for the production of TV ads in support of two candidates for County Commissioner, Al French and Mary Kuney. Is that a lot of money to spend in races for Commissioner? Yes, in fact, it is a breathtaking amount. Here are the total amounts raised by the candidates (exclusive of Avista’s “independent” expenditures) for these two seats. (Click on the name to link to the raw data at the Public Disclosure Commission as of October 15):

Al French  $92,392.44

Robbi Anthony  $5,216.93

Mary Kuney  $85,903.37

Rob Chase  $20,859.59

Eye-popping, isn’t it? With this nearly $200,000 “independent” expenditure Avista Corporation is weighing in on the basis of its “free speech rights as a corporate person” (Read here, here, and here for background and detail on the Citizens United v. FEC decision that made this legal.)

Someone or several someones at Avista Corporation made the decision to spend $200,000 of the money Avista made to support two candidates for Spokane County Commissioner. That total amount is nearly as much as raised by all four candidates combined to date.

Why is Avista weighing in on two County Commissioner races? What does Avista expect of Mr. French and Ms. Kuney in exchange for this wad of money, this “independent” expenditure, supporting their incumbency? As a corporation Avista’s primary duty is to its own corporate profit. This two hundred thousand expenditure should raise eyebrows. 

I find the Spokane County method for selecting County Commissioners rather odd. In the Primary (last August 7) candidates run in one of three Districts, but in the following General Election each of the three seats is voted county-wide. Robbi Katherine Anthony faced off against Mr. French in District 3 and beat Mr. French, 26,023 to 18,726 (55 to 45%). I imagine Mr. French finds those numbers a little worrisome. However, roughly 144,000 ballots were cast in the entire county in the Primary. The field of voting for this position in the November General election is the whole county. Furthermore, ballot turn-in is likely to be higher, so the field of votes to woo for this seat is much larger.

I will cast my vote for Robbi Katherine Anthony. Avista’s profit-driven massive expenditure in Mr. French’s support only underlines business relations that are a little too cozy. French is vehemently against expanding the County Commissioner seats from three to five. He threatens to take Washington State to court (on our dime) to contest the issue. This sounds to me like a man on the losing side of an argument desperately trying to consolidate his power–and now Avista is loudly defending him in monetary “corporate speech.” Is Avista afraid of losing a cozy arrangement that defends their profits?

Robbi Katherine Anthony is young, personable, smart, highly conversant in the digital world (she owns two local tech businesses), and she’s in favor of expanding the number of Commissioners to better represent the county’s residents.  It’s time for a new face in that seat. For more, read the Inlander article or the Spokesman article. (Better yet, read both articles and ponder the subtle differences in slant.)

The other County Commissioner race, between Mary Kuney and Rob Chase, is a tough one for me. Ms. Kuney has  four times the war chest of Mr. Chase, (Nine times if you count Avista’s help.) It seems to me Chase is more likely to speak truth to business power and stand up against cozy relationships on the County Commission, but his involvement with Northwest Grassroots, the white supremacist, conspiracy-theory-fueled local Republicans, and his rabid conservatism make me very uncomfortable. Avista’s weighing in Avista’s self interest is in danger of pushing me over the edge in favor of Chase. Perhaps I’ll re-think that Kuney sign in my front yard. 

Keep to the High Ground,


P.S. After you click on a candidate name (above) to go to the PDC website, click around to see who has contributed money to these candidates. Form your own opinions.

P.P.S. Yesterday morning Amy Edelen of the Spokesman covered this story on the front page of the Spokesman. I invite you to read it here. Ms. Edelen does not mention the $100,000 investment per candidate by Avista is more than either candidate has been able to raise on their own. Ms Edelen writes, “Collins Sprague, who is Senior Director of Government Relations for Avista Corp., said the independent expenditures – which are funded by company shareholders and not included in utility rates – were made pursuant to state law in support of each candidate”.  Avista Corp. does maintain accounting that keeps Avista Utility earnings separate from its political speech activities, that is, Avista Utilities cannot claim political speech as a cost of its doing business as a utility when asking for a rate hike.  On the other hand, profit finally made from the utilities business feeds Avista Corp.  In any case, I am a shareholder and I DISAPPROVE of the message. I acknowledge Avista is within its legal rights, thanks to Citizens United’s ludicrous concept of corporate personhood and free speech. Legality makes the expenditure no less deplorable as an example of overwhelming and egregious corporate election meddling.

NOTE: this archived missive has been modified from the original email to reflect the relationship between Avista Utilities and Avista Corp.


Indivisible–Tu–CMR, Pre-Existing Conditions, and Fuzzy Economic Thinking

Dear Group,

When McMorris Rodgers says, “I believe we must protect people with pre-existing conditions and ensure their health care needs are met,” (Spokesman, September 30) she is sincere, but she is also shining light on a fundamental misunderstanding of insurance and economics.

Of course she is sincere. She is a concerned mother of a child with Down Syndrome, a clear example of a pre-existing condition. Health insurance for a person with Down Syndrome in the pre-Affordable Care Act days (pre-2009) was either astronomically expensive or simply not available, not offered. Why would an insurance company sell insurance to cover an individual with known Down Syndrome, a condition with many known complications that are expensive to treat? Being forced to cover a lot of patients with pre-existing conditions like Down Syndrome is economic suicide for a health insurance company. It is in the best interests of every health insurance company to steer such patients elsewhere, or charge them premiums consist with the cost of providing their care.

McMorris Rodgers understands preexisting conditions on a very personal level. She really does want other people with pre-existing conditions to be able to avoid paying directly for treatment they need. That’s just right, isn’t it? After all, Down Syndrome really isn’t a result of poor choices in life so it is rightand justthat insurance companies should take on the economic risk of the disease.

But wait a minute. Isn’t this the same Congresswoman who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act some fifty times over the last eight years, voted to repeal without considering the mandate to cover pre-existing conditions would vanish with it? Where was her personal sincerity over the plight of her son with Down Syndrome while she was mouthing the Republican talking points about restoring the “free” market, about “choice,” and how the government mandating the purchase of health insurance was “unconstitutional?”

Now, she and Republicans are busy backfilling. “No, no, actually, we want to protect people with pre-existing conditions! Forget what we voted for! We really didn’t mean it. We really are compassionate and caring. Quick, quick, we just put some bills in the hopper in the House that prove our sincerity!” I encourage you to read this article from the October 11 Washington Postfor full review of the Republican backfill efforts on pre-existing conditions. Or read Shawn Vestal’s scathing critique (May 3, 2017 Spokesman) of McMorris Rodgers’ lack of commitment to the pre-existing conditions clause in the lead up to the Republican AHCA, their failed, high profile, “repeal and ‘replace’” attempt.

But here’s the deeper background: McMorris Rodgers must have missed Economics 101. Her fuzzy economic thinking is on display.

1) Any person with a whiff of a pre-existing condition will cost more to take care of on average than a person with a clean health record. Insurance companies know this. They will do anything they can get away with to charge higher premiums to such people or turn them away. Insurance companies stuck with more patients with pre-existing conditions are automatically at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. They will raise premiums for everyone…or they will go bankrupt. That is basic “free market” economics.

2) In the same Spokesman article McMorris Rodgers says four times her goal is “affordable” health insurance (or health care). How does driving up insurance prices (as in #1) make insurance more affordable? Hmmm.

Points 1 and 2 are economically incompatible, but there is one more:

3) McMorris Rodgers expressed breathless excitement of Republican “momentum”when they repealed the Individual Mandate as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The Individual Mandate, the requirement under the Affordable Care Act that everyone acquire health insurance or pay a fine, well, that was “unconstitutional,” and an infringement on citizens’ rights. I’m sure her excitement was real. After all, Republicans imagine themselves as the champions of such things. But wait. The economics of health insurance guarantee that if healthy people at little risk of illness do not buy health insurance then insurance prices will go up because the remaining folks are, on average, sicker and more expensive to care for.

#3 contradicts the goal of affordability, just like #1 does. This is basic economics of insurance. McMorris Rodgers gets a failing grade. Her thinking is fuzzy. As mother to a child with Down Syndrome she gets honorable mention for sincerity. She is not acting. She is real. She really doesn’t understand what she is doing…

If you listen a little longer to McMorris Rodgers, or any other current day excuse for a rational Republican, you will hear them trail off mumbling about “continuous coverage requirements,” “high risk pools” and “Pharmacy Benefit Managers.” These are paltry attempts to deal with problems of fundamental economics McMorris Rodgers doesn’t have the bandwidth to grasp.

Vote for Lisa Brown. She has a grasp of reality well beyond the economic basics at which McMorris Rodgers fails.

Keep to the High Ground,

CMR is Back, and She’s Worried

Dear Group,

Ballots are due just three weeks from tomorrow, November 6. We’re on the home stretch. McMorris Rodgers is already back in eastern Washington, desperate to keep her seat in Congress. She’ll be here for the duration, no time for relaxation in sunny San Diego. 

She will use every trick in the book. She will flash her standard smile to mask her anger at pointed questions. She will trot out as character witnesses people her staff has individually helped with the 1.3 million of our tax dollars she receives each year and uses for the purpose (read Members Representational Allowance). She will use the “deference to the incumbent” (that the Spokesman says is proper and traditional) to get first billing in everything they publish and free coverage that touts small meetings as examples of supposed constituent engagement. 

McMorris Rodgers has already used her leverage as the incumbent to specify favorable ground for the”debates.” She carefully sidestepped invitations to debates on college campuses and even the League of Women Voters, the traditional sponsors. Instead, consider the turf she approved: turf with a business lean. Greater Spokane, Inc. (GSI) is the sponsor of this Wednesday’s debate. “Greater Spokane” sounds really upbeat and inclusive. GSI does some great things for some Spokanites, but it is not exactly neutral ground. GSI formed in 2007 when the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce merged with the Spokane Area Economic Development Council. It was a timely rebranding. “Greater Spokane” is warm and fuzzy. “Chamber of Commerce” sounds a little too much like business, the audience of the Powell Memorandum I wrote about last Friday

Like GSI, The Rotary Club of Spokane #21, the sponsor of the Thursday, October 18, noon debate, does some laudable community work, but it also is hardly neutral ground. The Rotary debate will be held in the Georgian Room of the Spokane Club. It is a “private event by invitation only.”. Questions are submitted in advance and only by Rotary 21 members. In Walla Walla next week Wednesday, October 24, the slant is front and center: the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce is the sponsor. 

That McMorris Rodgers deigns to debate four times in the lead up to the election shows more courage than usual, but her refusal to debate in front of the League of Women Voters, on college campuses, and groups representing people of color speaks volumes about her constituency and her fears.

McMorris Rodgers, with her excitement over the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, is committed to “trickle down” economics, enrich the rich and some will slide through the cracks to the commoners. With her selective acceptance of debate turf she also subscribes to “trickle down” politics, speak to business interests and the benefits somehow will dribble down to the worker bees. 

Watch for a slew of attack ads nearer the time ballots are mailed, October 19th, attack ads bankrolled by her corporate sponsors, ads carefully constructed by Republican word-meisters to light up negative mind-frames among the brainwashed, attack ads injecting doubt and fear. 

Discouragement with voting is a Republican weapon. “Polls” will be released suggesting there is no point in voting, the result is a foregone conclusion in favor of the incumbent. “We are the Borg, resistance is futile.” 

There will be exhortations to vote from evangelical pulpits in the last weeks, while many mainline Christian pastors will shy away from exhortation for fear of losing their non-profit status or offending some of their parishioners.

McMorris Rodgers lacks one thing: an army of dedicated, unpaid, intelligent volunteers willing to go out, knock on doors and sincerely discuss with discouraged and disconnected voters why this election is important, to explain why McMorris Rodgers sounds so desperate, how she has drunk gallons of the Republican/Libertarian Kool-Aid and lost touch with needs of her constituents, to explain after fourteen years of Cathy “Ignores-us” Rodgers it is time to apply the electoral term limit CMR herself says she endorses (as better than statutory term limits). 

Join the volunteer army of door-knockers. Major change does not happen by accident. We have lived with fourteen years of non-representation by a Republican/Libertarian ideologue who rode into office on the coattails of a man (George Nethercutt) who won by only 4000 votes (out of more than two hundred thousand cast) in 1994. It is high time to flip the dynasty of incumbency those 4000 votes created. This will only happen if we put our shoulders to the wheel…

Join the volunteer army, Don’t wake up November 7 wishing you had done more. Go to Lisa’s Events Page or check out Adopt a candidate. Get involved. 

Keep to the high ground,


P.S. Right after I wrote this one of my predictions was verified. A Republican operative was on KPBX, suggesting the election was a done deal. On what did he base his prediction? “She [CMR] won the primaries by 8% even with an historic primary turnout of Democrats.” He did NOT add that less than half of registered voters cast a ballot in the primaries, a convenient…and glaring…omission. This is right out of the Republican playbook of discouragement. “Don’t bother to vote. The result is fore-ordained. Resistance is futile.” I hope to rub his nose in his prediction after the election. To be fair, the broadcast began with a different suggestion from another talking head: “The election will be so close it may involve a recount.” The truth? We will only know some time after November 6th. 

Kavanaugh, Pinnacle of the Libertarian Plan

Dear Group,

In 1971 soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell (nominated by Nixon) wrote “a confidential memorandum titled ‘Attack on the American Free Enterprise System,’ an anti-Communist, anti-Fascist, anti-New Deal blueprint for conservative business interests to retake America for the chamber [US Chamber of Commerce].” Lewis Stevens had served as a lawyer for Phillip Morris, “arguing tobacco companies’ First Amendment rights were being infringed when news organizations were not giving credence to the cancer denials of the industry. That was the point where Powell began to focus on the media as biased agents of socialism.” (from Wikipedia from which you can follow the footnotes) Part of Powell’s motivation in writing the Memo was his fear that Ralph Nader’s consumerist movement (Unsafe at Any Speed) would hamper American enterprise. If those ideas sound eerily familiar a half century later, they should. The Powell Memorandum is a foundational document.

Powell, incidentally, was approved by the Senate as an Supreme Court Justice almost a year before the Washington Post found and published his Memorandum.

At the time of Lewis Powell nomination to the Supreme Court, Supreme Court nominees were mostly centrists, so much so that it was actually unclear how they would rule in any particular case brought before the court. The major vetting prior to presentation to the U.S. Senate was done by the American Bar Association (ABA). Nixon (a Republican, of course), for example, made four appointments: Lewis Powell (who was pro-choice and pro-business), Harry Blackmun (the famous author of Roe v. Wade), Warren Burger, and William Rehnquist. 

The Powell Memorandum spurred the non-profit think-tanks funded by prominent Republican/Libertarian monied interests so well chronicled by Jane Mayer in “Dark Money.” (See the Reference Section below.) Their sights were then set on the judicial branch, believing the judiciary  insufficiently friendly to business. The Federalist Society was founded in 1982, backed by major donations from the Koch brothers, the Mercers, and the Scaifes. The avowed purpose of the Federalist Society is to nurture scholars, students, lawyers, judges and public opinion toward “a textualist or originalist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.” That is shorthand for the business-friendly prescription of the Powell Memorandum. Every successful Supreme Court nominee by every Republican President since 1982 has been a member of the Federalist Society…except one…Anthony Kennedy, the swing-vote Justice who just retired, opening up seat into which the Republicans have gleefully filled with Brett Kavanaugh.. 

Here’s the list of nominees to the Supreme Court by Republicans since 1982. The two in parentheses are the only Republican nominees not part of the Federalist Society:

Antonin Scalia (1986-2016)

Robert Bork–rejected by the Senate 42-58 in 1987

(Douglas H. Ginsburg) withdrew on account of earlier use of cannabis 1987

(Anthony Kennedy) (1987-2018)

Clarence Thomas (1991-   age 70

John Roberts (2005-    age 63

Samuel Alito (2006-    age 68

Neil Gorsuch (2017-   age 51

Brett Kavanaugh (2018-   age 53

The Senate process was contentious for Bork, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh in part because of the ideological vetting by and membership in the Federalist Society. For Republicans the Federalist Society approval has mostly replaced the vetting process of the American Bar Association that was the standard before 1980. Part of the reason the Federalist Society was founded to counter what the Republican think tanks had come to believe was a liberal bias on the part of the ABA and the majority in most law schools.

With Kavanaugh the Federalist Society goal is reached, a youthful 5-4 Supreme Court majority of Federalist Society members, a goal apparently worth outright theft of a seat from Merrick Garland and all the contention around Kavanaugh’s inadequately investigated past…and his blatantly partisan eruption during the last Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. (The two oldest current members of the Supreme Court are Ginsburg at 85 and Breyer at 80. The Federalist Society majority, barring some medical accident, depends on a pinch of luck and Clarence Thomas’ longevity.)

Much of the political excitement over Kavanaugh’s elevation surrounds abortion and gun rights, but never forget the real reason the Republicans pushed so hard has more to do with Republican power: rulings on gerrymandering, corporate personhood (Citizen’s United), possible adjudication of the handling of indictments against Trump…and all the corporate, “free enterprise” goals of the Powell Memorandum.

Now, with a definitively Republican/Libertarian/Federalist Society majority on the Supreme Court, it is more important than ever to regain control of the House or the Senate and as many parts of state governments as possible this November. (Note that regulations around a woman’s right to control her own body are likely to devolve to the several states.) If all three branches of the federal government are left in Trump’s tiny hands I fear for our country. 

Come on out and knock on doors this weekend. The November election is looming. Your country needs your help.

Keep to the high ground,